Rupert Murdoch, the Australia-born billionaire chairman of News Corp. (NWSA:US), said his homeland needs to attract more Asian immigrants as its dependence on trade grows.
“The more people we have with ties to other parts of the world, the greater our advantage when we seek trade relationships with these nations,” he said today in a speech in Sydney. “Immigration adds its own dynamism to any economy.”
Australia, whose biggest trading partner is China, must attract larger numbers of top overseas graduates, particularly from Asia, Murdoch, 82, said in a speech at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based provider of research on foreign policy. Ethnic diversity gives Australia an “incredible” advantage, said Murdoch, who obtained U.S. citizenship in 1985.
Sensitivity to immigration in Australia intensified in the late 1970s, when refugees arriving by sea were granted entry following the Vietnam War. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, elected last month, has pledged to stop arrivals of asylum seekers by boat as the government focuses on migrants with skills.
Australia has been built on overseas arrivals since it was colonized by Britain in 1788. The proportion of the population born overseas is now more than 27 percent, almost double the figure in the U.S., United Nations data show.
Murdoch also called on Australia to embrace “disruption.” For News Corp., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, the growth of mobile communications was “a shot of adrenalin,” allowing access to news and data worldwide, he said.
“The same opportunity for global growth is there for Australia, if we can make ourselves more nimble,” he said.
The threat to Australia’s prosperity no longer comes from lower paid Asian workforces producing cheaper consumer goods, said Murdoch. Rather, it’s the potential for China and India to beat Australia to new drug or technology discoveries, he said.
Australia would serve its own interests by strengthening ties with China and neighboring Indonesia, said Murdoch.
“All around us, we face something this region has never had before: a wealthy, educated and globally competitive middle class of more than two billion people,” said Murdoch. “That is not something we need to fear. That is something we need to lead.”
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